Oh [Mini] Christmas Tree!

I absolutely LOVE Christmas, December, the Holidays, everything related to this time of year. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t feel the same excitement, so the past few years it’s fallen completely on me to bring the Christmas cheer to my house. I believe the last Christmas tree I put up was in 2013, but that’s also because I haven’t spent the holidays at home the past few years, so it didn’t make sense to put up a tree if I wouldn’t be here to light it/take care of it if it were real. Last year I hosted Friendsmas and tried to make up for the absence of a tree with the decor, which I think I got away with. This year, I will most likely not be home for Christmas or New Years, but I did want to have at least a bit of holiday cheer at home. Let’s get to work!

I bought a small white tree a few years ago when I was still working at an office to put up in my cubicle, and had mini ornaments in the colors that were “in” that year – purple, teal/blue, pink and green. I used that same tree last year at Friendsmas for the gift table so there was at least some semblance of the Christmas staple present, with a few red ornaments. This year, the obsession with rose gold has been extremely real, but my search for mini ornaments in that color had very little results… Until I remembered, “hey, I’m a crafter!” I found one set of mini ornaments from Target that were a metallic color scheme that included “caramel, silver, and gold,” and I decided let’s make this right. Since the pack was only $3, what did I have to lose?

I ordered the ornaments as well as a gold star topper online and went to pick them up at the store. I have gallons of rose gold paint at home working on items for my best friend’s bridal shower/bachelorette/wedding, so I needed nothing else. I got creative with my placement of the items to spray with color, and got to work! I let everything dry for about an hour before touching it, decorated my mini tree, and placed it on my kitchen table. Voila! A little bit of holiday cheer is here, and Mariah Carey is on all day. I love December ❤

Last but not least, I found this set of copper string lights at JoAnn that were down from $19.99 to $11.99, and now my little tree is properly LIT! 😉

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Making The Most Out of Late Gift-Giving

With Christmas just around the corner, this post might be very timely for you, so pay attention!

As I imagine it happens to many of us, the gift I ordered for my friend didn’t arrive in time for her birthday. We’ve all been there at one point or another – whether our fault or not – and it sucks. It happens to me a lot more frequently than I care to admit, and I’m working on it. Amazon Prime has made me overconfident to the point I think if I order a gift five minutes before I leave to the party I’m attending it’s going to arrive on time (and I’m not talking about Prime Now. #JustCrazy).

My friend’s birthday was December 2nd, but the gift didn’t arrive until today, December 5th. I didn’t notice the delivery estimate until after I’d placed the order, and I’m assuming Black Friday/Cyber Week orders trampled all deliveries. I didn’t want to be empty-handed since I’d actually see her ON her birthday, and I know I could’ve just told her what I got her or gotten her a card, but I wanted to make it a little extra special. So…

I got my friend a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9, that comes in a very unique and pretty color I thought she’d love. I looked up the packaging, and I decided that it would be cute to make a little imitation box. Do you remember in elementary school when they taught us how to make 3D cubes and other figures with construction paper? That training came in handy for this! I went over to my trusty PowerPoint, pulled some images from the interwebz and used shapes to create some tabs where I thought I’d be making the folds, and printed it out – #FixItMoment: I forgot to print on thick card stock, and printed on regular paper. Since I didn’t want to re-print, I just glued the paper to the card stock with a glue stick and called it a day. #ItsHandled. Also, since you can’t really gift a Polaroid camera without film, I got her a pack of black and white film to play with! Which also came in today… so that got a little cute box too.

So that’s it! If your gift is late, your friends and family will understand regardless, but going the extra mile so that you don’t show up empty-handed and getting them excited about what you got them in a cute way can always give you extra brownie points 😉

 

Making It vs. Buying It… What Gives?

The “why buy it for $7 when you can make it for $92 worth of craft supplies?” meme runs my life. I have a very hard time just buying something when I KNOW I can totally make it myself and it will turn out almost identical to the original. The satisfaction of seeing something made by me next to something that is produced elsewhere is so tempting, that I find myself having a dilemma on a weekly (if not daily) basis. “But isn’t it more expensive when you have to buy all the supplies and you probably won’t use all of it?” you say?? Nonsense.

My most recent and blatant example of the ridiculous journey I was about to embark on to make something instead of buying it was for my best friend’s bachelorette that I’m planning. The destination for the bach is New Orleans. Woot! What’s synonymous with Nola? Masks. Should I buy them? Honestly, even if I found really cheap masks, like at Walmart, they’re still not cheap enough to include in the bundle of items I’m making for the girls, and it’s a hard expense to justify. While browsing Pinterest for inspiration, I came across a pin that listed very easy instructions on how to make a mask with just puffy paint and tulle! Ooooooooo! Jackpot! What could be easier than making a mask out of puffy paint? In this particular instance, the paint and tulle I’d need would actually probably come out cheaper than buying the masks anywhere, so that part of the plan was solid. What wasn’t so solid was the amount of time it would take me to make the masks, which I was ultimately ok with, but after making one and trying it on, I knew there was a fundamental problem with them: puffy paint stretches, but only so much… I knew the masks would last 2.5 seconds before one of the ends snapped, and I didn’t want to be all proud and mighty giving the girls things I’d made myself, only to have them fall apart on Bourbon five minutes into the night. This is what the project was looking like:

After 3 puffy paint masks, I decided to take a look at Ali Express, and hoped to find something extremely cheap that would surpass the flimsiness of the puffy paint mask structure. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to find really cute lace masks for really, really cheap. Like under $0.60 each cheap. I thought about it for all of 6 seconds when I immediately decided that in this case, buying was a no-brainer. My saving grace through this process was also that I began planning this practically before my friend even got engaged, so I’ve been doing things with plenty of time, and I didn’t have a problem placing an order for items that would take about a month to come in from abroad. With shipping, 13 masks came out to $11.04 dollars! Yes, all of them! TOTAL! I know.

Absolute steal, absolutely worth it, and unquestionably cheaper than buying all the materials you’d need to make the mask, which if you didn’t own, you’d need:

  • Big tube of Puffy Paint
  • Tulle
  • Parchment paper
  • Printout model of mask
  • Clips
  • Ribbon

As a crafter, I did of course have all those things in hand, so my expense to make the masks would’ve technically been zero, but realistically, that money had already been spent, and in this case, the outcome wouldn’t have been equal to or superior to the purchased product.

Today, buying wins!

5 Settings to Use on VSCO to Improve Your Pictures!

Hello shutterbugs! This post can be useful not only for product pictures but also for shots of humans and landscapes and really many types of photography! I’m a huge fan of the VSCO app for editing all kinds of images on my phone, and I’m going to share the top settings I play around with to get my pictures to look almost professional.

I remember when I first started taking pictures of my products for my Etsy shop, I thought I was killing the game, and now looking back I realize how lost I was. What helped? Things took a turn for the better once I took Hilary Rushford’s “Instagram With Intention” free online workshop, where she introduced us to VSCO (I’m a big advocate for taking any and all free seminars you see offered, there’s always something to learn and you have nothing to lose, especially when they’re free. If it just so happens that you like what you hear, you can subscribe or get a membership to keep getting useful content). Without any further ado, let me share the very basic but completely life-changing tips I learned from Hilary and immediately implemented to my picture-editing game. Let’s keep this interesting with a step by step example: pizza picture please!

  • Natural light: this is an obvious one for many (and not a VSCO setting, but I got you guys with a bonus later) but the perfect foundation for good pictures is to take them in natural light – aka, not being hit by direct/yellow light, but placed where it would receive a diffused, indirect “bath” of light. Check out this original shot of a yummy pizza in what looks like natural light. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s definitely not Instagram ready. Yet!

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  • Exposure: exposure is the vert first setting option, and it stands for the amount of light you want to add or remove from your picture, or how much light you’d want it “exposed” to. I usually move the dial to the right on average to +2-3.5 as shown in the picture, so that it looks like it was professionally lit, and that sometimes helps diminish imperfections as well. Play around with the button and always start off small, because there is such a thing as “overexposed” pictures. This is going to make the pizza look a little pale because there was already light, but the combination of edits is what does the magic.

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  • Contrast: the contrast feature strengthens the properties of each color, making the light tones lighter, and the dark tones darker. This one is also good to keep at +2-3.5.

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  • Saturation: saturation is here to make your colors look extra alive! Now, this one I’m super extra careful with, because it usually brings in a strong yellow/orange aura to the picture. So you can play around it and keep it around a +1.5-2.5. The pizza is ready to pop off the screen, but it almost looks like it was under a lamp light to stay warm. Not good yet!

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  • Temperature: to the left, to the left! The solution to most of your yellow/orange problems is to make the picture colors “cooler” in tone, so literally lowering the temperature will bring on the blue hues. Don’t go too far, just enough to see yellows turning white is perfect. A -1 or -2 usually does the trick.

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Now those are the ones I use pretty much for almost every picture edit, but not all pictures are created equal and there’s no one size fits all edit. These are not filters, these are enhancers that work under your guidance to get the tones jussssst right, on an individual basis. But this picture is not perfect yet. The light colors are now a little too light, and it has lost some of the detail. Since I’m more used to playing with the app now, I know exactly what to do next. In this case, I’m going over to the “Highlights” feature. I moved this one up to +10, but I really have no parameters for it since I seldom use it. See how now there are more spots in the cheese? All the colors garnered strength again.

 

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And now, our pizza is ready to get all the glory of Instagram and make your followers salivate. Let’s see the before and after, side by side. Shall we?

Now, the first picture almost makes it look like the pizza was in the oven for a little too long, but the second one literally has me ready to #TBT in real life and go back to that magical moment before having it.

Anywho, I’m no foodie blogger or expert picture taker, but I definitely saw a huge improvement in my pictures over time, and my feed got much, much prettier. The other secret for me has been the white background. That’s a product photography staple, and as much as I tried to fight it at first, it’s simply perfect. I hope these tips help elevate your picture game and if you have any suggestions on other features to use, please drop them in the comments below!

Carlos’ 60th Birthday Cuban Musical Props

My best friend’s father-in-law to be just turned 60 years old this past weekend! What a milestone, and such a beautiful number. I am very fond of the 60th birthday because while doing some research when I was planning my mom’s 60th turn around the sun (shh, please don’t tell her I mentioned that number, anyone who puts her over 35 goes on a kill list! haha!) I found out that in Chinese culture, the 60th birthday is sort of a re-birth. 12 x 5 = 60, and that means that by the time you turn 60, you’ve done a full life cycle around all the signs (and sub-types) in the Chinese Zodiac, so it’s a new beginning. Anyway, I digress…

For Carlos, one of the things he has most fun doing is dancing, and since he’s Cuban, salsa is probably at the top of his favorite genres. His birthday was a perfect moment to go all out, celebrate his Cuban heritage and the music he enjoys so much. Check out the props & banner I was asked to make for the occasion!

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Some bongos, maracas and musical notes represented the hobby and genre he loves so much! The fedoras & cigar were a nod to his Cuban heritage and style!

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Rhymes and banners, nothing is… smarter? 😉

The birthday boy danced the night away and all the guests took turns posing with the props. Cheers to Carlos’ 60 Years!

Halloween 2017 DIY – Two On The Run Costumes & Winter Is Here!

You know I’m ALL about the DIY life for Halloween costumes. Do you remember this one? I’m still super proud of those two costumes, but this year was a whole new ball game, on a much tighter deadline.

My bff wanted to keep it simple but cute, so she decided she wanted to be a unicorn, but like the chillest unicorn ever. Horn from amazon, and a shirt by yours truly that said “I’m a unicorn, DUH” for anyone who dared ask. Done.

Her sister went shopping for one idea, and changed her mind during the shopping trip. She came to me with a yellow shirt and some felt and wanted me to turn her into a pineapple. Done.

Cut up the shirt. Drew the peaks. Made a crown out of felt, a headband and some poster board scraps.

I had been thinking about my costume for a while, but decided to pull the trigger the week of Halloween. My red hair was finally in its full glory, and my Game of Thrones fever was (is!) as strong as ever. I also just happened to have a burgundy statement necklace and a newfound love for makeup. Melisandre, you’re up. DONE!

Red hair? Owned. Necklace? Owned. Makeup? Owned. Robe? $12 on Amazon.

And that’s all folks! Another DIY Halloween in the books. Start preparing early for 2018, for the night is dark and full of terrors and you don’t want to show up in the same costume as everyone else…

#TravelTuesdays – Hamilton AND Dear Evan Hansen in ONE WEEKEND? FOR FREE?!?!?

Yes, dear reader. You read that right. “But how did you manage to get into two of the hottest Broadway shows in a single weekend? And for free?” you ask? Sit tight, patience got me these experiences, and it shall get you the answer.

I read a daily newsletter that covers U.S. and world events in an engaging tone called TheSkimm, and I have referred enough people to it to become a Skimm’bassador. One of the perks of being an “SB” is being part of a Facebook group with over 12,000 other SBs, and it’s a group many of us are fond of due to the sharing nature of many of its members. In November of 2016, an SB posted on the group that a new wave of Hamilton Tickets for shows from May to October of 2017 had gone on sale in their regular Ticketmaster pricing. Normally, these tickets are gone within minutes thanks to bots and regular thirsty people like myself who really want to get their hands on tickets, but, this was November 9th, which was the day after the election in the U.S. and many people were too enthralled watching (or reeling from) the news to care about anything else. Because of this, I managed to go in and snatch myself 2 sets of tickets for shows in the weekend before my birthday in October. I figured, I’ll go to one and sell the other, and depending on how much I sell them for, I just might be able to cover the whole trip! That was wishful thinking at its best. At the time, ticket resales were going for much, much higher than now, since demand is not as crazy with shows opening up across the country and now even in London. So, that was that. I purchased my tickets, and waited patiently until it was time to put them up for sale.

Then, on March 6th of this year, I was on the phone with my brother, who had originally told me he wanted to come to the show with me, and I went on Ticketmaster to check my seats to see which of the two shows was better, when I saw a little message saying that a new wave of tickets was going on sale the next day at 10:00 am. OMG. Ticketmaster does not notify people when tickets go on sale, because they’d never be able to deal with the servers crashing from the volume of visitors, so it’s up to random humans to keep checking until they know when the sale day will be, and they spread the word. By chance, I found out just in time. I tell my brother the news, and he tells me he’s going to buy a set the next day, and I can’t resist the urge and end up buying a third set of tickets, in a very good section, this time for a show on November 10th. At this point I have in my hands 3 sets of tickets for shows on the 19th and 21st of October, and for November 10th. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to see Hamilton in 2017! All I had to do was pick a date and sell the other two sets.

Fast-forward to the Tony Awards, which took place on June 11th. By this point, I had already heard of Dear Evan Hansen and I was a fan of the few songs I’d heard, and of course I loved Ben Platt from Pitch Perfect… but I had looked at tickets recently and everything was pretty much gone except for the price-hiked “preferred seating” section… and I just didn’t want to drop that kind of money. Until I watched the Tonys and in the heat of the moment, I said eff it, and bought myself a pair of tickets to go see Dear Evan Hansen on the same weekend in October that I had two pairs of Hamilton tickets for.

At this point, I had spent $1,200 in all 3 sets of Hamilton Tickets, and $700 for 1 pair for Dear Evan Hansen. Someone needs to hide my wallet during award shows. JK, I know my credit card number by heart.

There was a lot of back and forth on who’d be my date for the plays, but I’ll save you the story and jump to the part where it was decided my dad would join me. Since his birthday is October 24th (TODAY! Happy birthday dad! <3) and mine is October 26th, this was shaping up to be the best pre-birthday weekend, ever. My dad found a great hotel deal and we were all set for the weekend. Now all I had to do was sell my extra tickets…

In mid-September my brother texts me and tells me he sold his Hamilton tickets for a good chunk of money and he was super happy with the extra cash. I was so relieved, because Hamilton was much more accessible by now than when we first got the tickets, so I was starting to get paranoid that we weren’t going to be able to resell them, and I thought he was going to be so mad at me for the idea. So the sigh of relief when he got rid of his was HUGE! A few days after, I checked back on Ticketmaster to see why my tickets weren’t selling, and turns out the section all around me had dropped prices. So I extra dropped mine to where I was still making a good amount but lower than everyone else, and within minutes – BAM. Sold my tickets. These were for one of the October sets (I kept the one with better seats for myself and sold the other one), I still had the November ones to sell, but I let those do the work themselves. Then, while I was in New York, ready to catch Hamilton in its full glory, I get another e-mail – BAM BAM. The November tickets sold too. And those were really good seats, and I was able to make a good chunk off of those. Basically, between the two sales, I made back exactly what I had spent on all four (3 Hamilton + 1 Dear Evan Hansen) sets of tickets and completely broke even. To the cent. I actually got to see Hamilton AND Dear Evan Hansen, in one weekend, for free. Not to mention, just a month later Ben Platt was ending his show run, so I felt even luckier and had even less regrets about having bought those highly priced tickets.

My dad and I went to both musicals and words can’t express what it felt like to be able to take him and gift him this experience. He’s always been so gracious and has gifted us with countless trips and concerts and plays in the past, and to be able to take him to the biggest shows of the year and in some pretty good seats = PRICELESS.

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